I wanted to smash something. This was too much to deal with. Between the new kid, Joe and now Sophia being pregnant, I felt like I was babysitting every fucker and I was still fucking there for no reason. Why hadn’t I cut and run like I’d meant to?
“Where the fuck has Joe gone?” I repeated my question, shouting at her. I was still wound up about her being pregnant, and honestly I could’ve done without the extra drama. So I yelled at her. Shoot me, I was stressed to the max.
"I don't know, I thought he was just up in his room," she replied, sounding all upset and worried. Not nearly as worried as I was. I didn’t even know why I was worried about him, he wasn’t anything to me. We spent a couple hours in a mall together, that didn’t make us instantly best buddies. He was a useless pain in the butt. I should’ve celebrated with a spliff in bed, but for some reason, it just slipped out of my mouth:
"Fuck's sake. I'm going to look for him, you stay here," I told her, still half shouting at her.
"Don't be stupid Luca. You can't go on your own," she countered.
"I can, and I am. Don't you fucking dare try and follow me.”
"Or what? What are you going to do? I won't let you go out there alone, I won't lose you, not now!" she was shouting back at me, this time.
"I will lock you in the fucking shed. I'll be fine on my own."
"Try it,” she challenged. She was angrier than I’d ever seen her. But then I wasn’t exactly trying to keep hold of my temper, like I would normally. "Don't you dare leave me here, wondering if you'll be back or if you're lying in some fucking ditch being eaten."
I nearly hit her right then. "You will stay here, and you will stay safe. I will find Joe, and come back with or without him." I gave her one last chance.
Only she just had to push me. She had to. “Don't you dare order me around. I'm not one of your drug whores who will do anything for you." My hand shot out and latched around her jaw, pulling her towards me a little by her face.
"You. Will. Stay."
"Get. Your. Hands. Off. Me,” she snarled, furious at me. If Lazarus hadn’t come and interrupted us, I’m not sure what I would’ve done.
"Are you guys-" he started timidly, looking up at me with my hand still gripping Sophia’s face. "What's going on?" Concern and a little fear entered his voice. It took a lot to be able to coordinate my vocals to make words again.
"Joe's gone missing, I'm going to look for him. Sophia is staying here," I said as calmly as I could. I don’t think it really worked, but I wasn’t shouting at least.
"Try and fucking stop me. I care about Joe just as much as you do," she snapped.
"Why does she have to stay here? She's capable enough, isn't she?" Lazarus sounded like he was trying to hide his anxiety, in favour of trying to be the calm, reasonable one. I could still practically smell his unease.
"Go on, Sophia, tell him why you're staying here,” I said, letting go of her and stepping back, watching as she glared at me.
She turned to Lazarus, "I'm pregnant. But it is not stopping me from going anywhere," she announced, more to me than to Blondie over there. He looked all taken aback for a moment. He also looked at me like he wanted to agree, even though he didn’t say anything.
The little kid wandered in at that point. “Is everything okay?” she asked from behind Lazarus. When she heard the little kid, Sophia tried to calm down a bit, even though her eyes were still flashing with anger.
“Hey Arianne. Don't worry everything's okay. Joe's gone walk abouts and Luca and I are going to find him. Can you stay here and be good for me?" she asked. Did she really want to do this in front of the kid?
"No, Sophia, you can stay and look after her. Me and Lazarus will go."
"We will?" Lazarus asked, alarmed.
"Yes, we will,” I said forcefully, giving him a look that said ‘don’t you dare argue’. He got the message.
Sophia grabbed my arm and dragged me to the side, away from the others. “I will not lose you. Walk out that door without me and I will be gone before you get back," her eyes were all watery and it looked like she was about to start crying.
“Only way you’re gonna lose me, is if you fuck off before I get back,” I growled, shoving past Lazarus. I grabbed my jacket, a gun and some ammo before slamming the front door shut behind me.
I picked a direction and walked, trying to think where Joe might have gone. Probably into the woods, trying to find some peace and quiet. So I went out into the woods, trying to figure out where he might have gone. I was no good at tracking, I was a city boy, for the most part, but with everything being dense, it wasn’t too hard to pick out a trail where he’d freshly broken through the overgrowth that hadn’t had anything else pass through it for a long time.
I followed it as much as I could, not paying much attention to where I was going. It was dark, and I had no idea where Joe was heading, or why he’d gone so far, so I really should’ve been paying attention. But nothing made me stop in my tracks until I heard voices. I could see them, wandering around.
I took out my gun, my left arm reminding me it still wasn’t totally healed. My head was cloudy from withdrawals and anger, and I didn’t move quickly enough to stay out of sight when someone looked in my direction.
“Shit,” I spat, when a guy nearly twice as thick set as I was headed for me. I didn’t get very far. The guy threw me to the floor, a gun to my head. “I’m not a walker!” I yelled, panicking when I couldn’t reach my gun where he’d thrown me down on top of it. It was digging uselessly into my back, as the bigger guy pinned me to the ground.
“Got any weapons?” he grunted.
“Just my gun,” I lied, figuring I’d rather keep the knife strapped to my arm a secret.
“No,” I lied again. He pulled me up by my shirt, holding out a hand.
“Gun,” he demanded. I glanced over his shoulder at the group that had gathered to watch. I wasn’t stupid. I couldn’t win with just my gun and my knife, not when they were all ready for me. I handed it over. “Check him,” he said to the others waiting, pushing me forwards out of the woodland towards them.
“I’m just looking for Joe,” I said, holding up my hands, “I think he came this way. He’s my little brother, see. Step brother. I didn’t get the dweeb gene from my mum, he got it from his though,” I tried to force out a little laugh, to break the tension. I wanted to break the big guy’s face, but that would definitely have gotten me killed. “If you could just tell me if you’ve seen a speccy ginger kid running around here today, and which way he went, I’ll just leave you be.”
The big guy narrowed his eyes at me. I was usually a pretty good actor when I tried, but my predicament had caught me out and he saw the lie.
“He’s got something to hide. He’s lying,” he announced. “Strip him, look for bites.”
“Just tell me if you’ve seen him!” I shouted, my temper getting the better of me for a second. The big guy smacked his fist into my lip. I felt the skin split under the force. Blood leaked into my mouth. I spat it at him. The spit and blood splattered on his dark skin, and his face didn’t change one iota.
The others grabbed me to hold me still and started to pull my clothes off. They saw all they needed to when they got my arm uncovered. It was still bandaged, covered in stains of blood and god knows what else that had leaked out of my arm. They cut the gauze off and one woman had to move away. One of the injuries was still clearly a bite, and the mark was still there on the other, too, though the rip had made it less obvious. Guns were suddenly trained on me.
“You lied, then,” the big guy said calmly.
“Because I knew you’d react like this. I’m fine! Just let me find Joe, okay?”
“Don’t you think he’s safer away from you?”
“No. Please, just let me go and find him.” I wanted him back and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why it was so important.